I SOLD MY SOUL ON EBAY
Christmas gift ideas for readers…
John Knapp II
For caring Bible-believers who wish to grow, and don’t mind stepping a bit beyond the church lawn, out of sight of the worship hall, these words are for you. It’s risky to read, of course, but for most who seriously ponder God and his world, it just might be more dangerous not to.
Enough about that.
What does a Bible-believing, science-trained, textbook-writing, “sci-fo” novelist, former English professor at a State university read—that he also wants to tell others about? Here are ten books within arm’s reach that have caught my eye, along with enough detail, I hope, to catch yours, too. Perhaps one’s just for you. Several aren’t new (I’m behind of course, as in giving my list), but then aren’t believers supposed to be receptive to older things?
The ten (given in no particular order) mimic other “10” lists popular at this season, and since we aren’t talking about commandments, feel free to skim until something trips you. Here and there is advice on how to get some of the books. Surprise an unsuspecting friend. These are easy to find. I checked.
1. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis S. Collins. (Free Press—Simon & Schuster, 2006, 283 pp. ). Collins, an MD and geneticist, who became prominent by decoding the human genome years before it was thought possible, was appointed by President Obama to head NIH. An outspoken, though gentle, evangelical Christian who prefers theistic evolution to intelligent design (though I don’t) was converted as an atheistic adult through reading C. S. Lewis. Of interest is his detailed response to the arguments of Richard Dawkins in his The God Delusion.
2. Why the Universe Is the Way It Is by Hugh Ross. (Baker, 2008, 217 pp. Easy to get through www.reasons.org.) Ross, an astonomer and former research fellow at Caltech, and founder of Reasons To Believe, in his next-to-the-last (I haven’t read the last one yet) in a series of books on Bible/science issues, addresses questions such as Why Such a Vast Universe? (As to size: there are 50 billion trillion, but not an endless number of, stars.) Why such an old universe? Why such a lonely universe? Why such a dark universe? Why believe the Bible? As far as I can tell, he’s up to date. Ross presents powerful evidence for a purpose-filled universe. Very readable.
3. A Brief History of Time: The Updated and Expanded Tenth Anniversary Edition by Stephen Hawking. (Bantam, 1998, 206 pp.). Hawking, not a professing believer (as far as I know), has been considered by many to be next to Einstein as the greatest mind in physics. This edition of his (short) best-selling (in 1988) “Brief History” has been updated to 1998 (though not to 2009!) and in my view is one of the best and most readable introductions to the world of space, time, and multidimensionalty. This provocative book might come as a surprise to many Bible-believers.
4. The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene. (Vintage Books, 2003, 425 pp.). This best seller, and Pulitzer Prize finalist a few years ago, while still readable for intelligent laymen, goes a bit further than Hawking, even discussing superstrings and T.O.E. or the Theory of Everything (that gets brief mention in my novel!). It’s more than twice as long as Hawking’s “brief” volume, but well worth your time if you know a bit of science.
Now, why all this science? Well, that’s my main area of interest, and what I’ve mostly written about—so far—on this website. As a Christian, I’m convinced that God has given two kinds of revelation—special and general, or the Bible and science—which is a good way to begin thinking about many things. And we can learn from both, as well as correctly interpret, or misinterpret both. That’s a topic for another time.
But let me point out here that I enjoy the books mentioned (so far and later), whether by Christians or non-Christians, that are written by people who know what they’re talking about—especially as far as making clear what is known by modern science and what is not. That’s important because several trendy books have been written by people who insist that atheism must be a premise of most scientific research.
5. Beyond the Cosmos by Hugh Ross. (Navpress, 1996, 234 pp. See comments about Ross in #2). Okay, here’s my favorite book of the past couple of years, one I refer to again and again. Within the context of The Big Bang Theory of origins, which I agree with, is acceptance, if only for a split second, of the existence of at least six additional dimensions to the four (length, width & height of space and one for time) that govern all we see and much that we think about. Ross explores multidimensionality to consider traditional paradoxes such as God’s triunity, God’s proximity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, evil and suffering, free will versus determinism, and the security of salvation. The book is full of charts, lists, Bible passages, and details of modern science. Presented as a possible framework for thinking, not as a catechism of absolute answers. This is also true for the book that follows.
6. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott. (1884. My copy is pub. by Dover, 1952, 103 pp.) Google this. This classic is available several places for as little as $2 (a stocking stuffer?), and even a free download is available on the web. Abbott, an English clergyman and Shakespeare scholar, creates a bizarre two-dimensional world (which he illustrates) where women are thin straight lines and men are flat and may have any number of sides (square, triangle, etc.), depending upon social status. The action in this farcical plot turns when from outside this world a sphere passes through Flatland, leaving Flatlanders wondering about this puzzling “line” that begins as a point in their plane, growing and growing only to slowly shrink back to a point again and disappear altogether. A great conversation starter that many can understand.
7. Teaching Science from a Christian Worldview: Navigating the Maze of Educational Options by Krista Bontrager. Loose-leaf in a binder, 96 pp. (Reasons To Believe, 2007; inquire at www.reasons.org) . This must-read for a homeschool teacher, written by a homeschooler and former adjunct prof at Biola Univ. who knows and cares about science, (quickly) explores secular curricular and Christian teaching options—such as materials published by A Beka, Apologia Ministries, Bob Jones University, Christian Schools International, KONOS, and Sonlight—and points out strengths and weaknesses in student lessons for parents to consider. With regard to science, scattered throughout otherwise acceptable and well-written text is serious overgeneralized information, out-of-date concepts, and actual factual errors. This is an important, one-of-a-kind book for those who love God, children, homeschooling, the Bible, and up-to-date modern science. This could merit a full article here.
8. What’s So Great About Christianity by Dinesh D’Souza (Tyndale, 2007, 308 pp.). Notice the missing question mark or exclamation point in the title (as is true of this sentence). Take your pick. D’Souza, a former White House domestic policy analyst—and writer of articles for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Atlantic Monthly, New Republic, etc.—shows in 308 pages (plus 20 pages of endnotes) why Christianity is still relevant, why intelligent people can still believe and accept the Bible, why the Bible is compatable with modern science. This logical and very readable contemporary apologetic for the Christian faith would sit easily alongside Collins’s book mentioned earlier.
9. Earth Is Not Alone by John Knapp II (Ephemeron, 2009, 497 pp. but with larger than usual print, and some illustrations by Dominic Catalano—but order it from Amazon and read reviews there, at my website [www.johnknapp2.com], and elsewhere). Shamelessly, I mention again my global disaster story (where EMP destroys all electrical power), in a “sci-fo” (science fiction/folklore) young adult romance set in the mountains of Pennsylvania, in the middle of a battle of Christianity versus atheism. A sequel, The Blood of Three Worlds, will follow. A page turner with real theological issues. Says reviewer Grace Bridges from New Zealand: This [EINA] is “the first book I’ve ever seen that truly tackles the concept of [human] life in other worlds from within a Christian worldview.” Very timely, I feel, as the December 2009 issue of National Geographic poses the question on its cover honoring the International Year of Astronomy, “ARE WE ALONE?”
10. I Sold My Soul on eBay: Viewing Faith Through an Atheist’s Eyes by Hemant Mehta (WaterBrook Press, 2007, 173 pp.). This is a first-person description of the odyssey of a much younger Ravi Zacharias-type thinker, but one who has converted from Jainism to atheism, as he visits Sunday (or Saturday night) services of 15 different churches for pay. His account is unforgettable to those concerned about the relevancy of Christian worship and the perception of Christian behavior. Mehta, with no apparent ax to grind, visited churches small, middle-sized, and large; some ordinary, some famous like the Moody Church in Chicago.
Unique to his story: (1) Menta remains an atheist after his adventure. (2) His book was published by a Christian press. (3) A “study guide” (written by Rob Bell) about how to consider Menta’s arguments is tacked on the end.
So here’s my “10”—an odd, unbalanced list, but perhaps containing something useful that slipped under your radar. The choices and discussion here, of course, are my own and in no way are official policies or beliefs of Seed of Abraham Ministries.
Happy Hannukah, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.